Spring Camp Recap: Veteran Development

Spring camp is complete and only final exams stand between Rutgers football and a few well-earned weeks of rest. Taking a look back at spring practice, ScarletReport.com examines veterans that showed the biggest sparks in development.

Improvement and player development are the focus for every team in spring camp. Traditionally younger players take the biggest steps forward, but veterans also showed significant development for Rutgers this spring. ScarletReport.com takes a look at fourth- and fifth-year players that showed something new on the field.

5. Junior punter Joe Roth -- Roth did not have the same opportunities last year with Nick Marsh joining the program as a fifth-year transfer and instantly locking up a starting position. Roth showed enough in the spring to show he can handle the starting job as punter when Rutgers heads into the Big Ten.

4. Senior safety Johnathan Aiken -- He started as a cornerback and special teamer, but emerged as a starter at safety with struggles from Jeremy Deering at the end of last season. Aiken did not have an instant impact like some hoped to see, but he has slowly fine-tuned his craft to the point where he will play a big role in 2014. Aiken will likely battle Delon Stephenson for the starting free safety position in training camp. He is physically developed, and will be relied on as coverage option at safety.

3. Junior defensive end Djwany Mera -- Mera still does not get enough credit for the developments he has made in the last year. It started in training camp last season when he took Jamil Merrell's starting job, and continued during the season with 13 starts, 34 tackles and 5.5 TFLs. Mera remained under the radar in spring, but the improvements continued to shine through. Mera showed more toughness and consistency in his pass rush to go along with his role against the run. Rutgers adds a lot of depth at defensive end this year, but none are in position to push Mera for his starting job.

2. Junior quarterback Mike Bimonte -- The fourth-year Manalapan quarterback was one of the biggest surprises of the spring with the way he handled the open position battle. Bimonte was the best quarterback of the day on multiple occasions, and his first scrimmage served as an eye-opener. The mechanics have room for improvement, but Bimonte managed to make plays despite questionable hands from some second- and third-team receivers. Gary Nova maintains a big lead in the quarterback battle, but Bimonte quickly rose above Chris Laviano and the departing Blake Rankin with his improvements this spring under offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen.

1. Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Bryan Leoni -- After dropping 150 pounds in high school, it was going to take some time for Leoni to build himself into a BCS-caliber offensive lineman. He took his biggest step forward in spring camp where he was more than serviceable as the starting right tackle. Leoni was an emergency center and guard last season, and enters training camp as the "sixth man" of the offensive line. Leoni is bulked up to 280 pounds, and can fill in at any of the five spots on the offensive line. Look for him to have a real on-field role in his final season after the development he showed in 15 spring practices.

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